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April 2: Happy Birthday Emmylou Harris and Alec Guinness

0402HarrisGuinness

Emmylou Harris is celebrating her 70th birthday today.  She is one of the most important country and traditional music artists of the last four or five decades, and has thirteen Grammys to her name.  She began her career working with country rock pioneer Gram Parsons, and made her reputation during the seventies with country rock albums like Elite Hotel and Luxury Liner, both of which reached #1 on the Country chart and had reasonable crossover success.  Many of her most successful singles also come from this period.

But one trademark of Harris’s career has been her ability to move in new directions as an artist.  At the beginning of the 1980s she moved towards a more traditional, acoustic sound, with albums like Roses in the Snow, which is a borderline bluegrass collection.  In the mid-nineties, she changed course again, working with U2 producer Daniel Lanois on an edgy folk-rock oriented album called Wrecking Ball, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, as did her follow-up, Red Dirt Girl.

Another facet of her career has been the enormous variety of Harris’s collaborations with other artists; Wikipedia has a very extensive list of her contributions to other musicians’ albums (but even it is not 100% complete).  As with many musicians, picking a single song to represent her is not really adequate, but I’m going to go with one of my (many) favorites.

Sir Alec Guinness (1914-2000) began his acting career on stage in the thirties.  He joined the Old Vic company in 1936, and worked regularly with the likes of John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft, and many others, appearing in some of the young Shakespearean roles like Romeo and Ferdinand in The Tempest.  After serving in World War II, he resumed his stage career and also began working in film,

Many of the highlights of the first two decades of Guinness’s film career involve, first, the comedies he made for the Ealing Studios.  The most famous of his Ealing films is probably Kind Hearts and Coronets, in which he played nine roles; he also starred in The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers.  During the postwar decades Guinness also made several films with David Lean.  His first of six films with Lean was Great Expectations (he played Herbert Pocket), the last was A Passage to India.  In between came The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which Guinness won the Oscar for Best Actor, and three others.

Guinness was a five-time Oscar nominee (including one for screenwriting).  Starting in the seventies he began slowing down the pace of his career, but there are two roles he took on in the late seventies which he will probably always be associated with.  One involved carrying a lightsaber.  The other, which did not, is probably my favorite Alec Guinness role of all:

German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender is turning 40 today.  Since making his feature film debut in 2007, Fassbender has appeared in at least two dozen films.  He has done his share of big-budget blockbuster movies, playing Magneto in X-Men: First Class and two sequels and appearing in Inglourious Basterds and Prometheus.  He has done some prestige pictures, including his Oscar-nominated turns in 12 Years a Slave and Steve Jobs, and literary adaptations like Jane Eyre and Macbeth.  He is a regular with director Steve McQueen, appearing in all 3 of this features.

Clark Gregg, who is 55 today, is best known for his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Phil Coulson; he also starred on The New Adventures of Old ChristineChristopher Meloni, best know for his long run as Det. Eliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU, turns 56; he has also had roles in features ranging from Man of Steel to The Diary of a Teenage Girl.

Linda Hunt, who turns 72 today, will always be remembered for her Oscar-winning performance as Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously.  Since 2009 she has been a regular on NCIS: Los AngelesPamela Reed, who is 68, is known for roles in films like The Long Riders (as Belle Starr) and Kindergarten Cop, and had a recurring role as Leslie Knope’s mother on Parks & Recreation.  Anglo-Indian actor Roshan Seth, known for his multiple portrayals of Indian political leader Jawaharlal Nehru in Gandhi and other productions, turns 75 today.  Director Donald Petrie, who is 63 today, is known for films like Mystic Pizza, Grumpy Old Men, and Miss Congeniality.

Pedro Pascal, who is turning 42, played Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones and currently stars on Netflix’s Narcos.  Also turning 42 is Adam Rodriguez, who played Eric Delko on CSI: Miami.  Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sánchez is celebrating her 44th; she is known for her regular roles on Without a Trace and Devious MaidsAdam F. Goldberg, the creator of Fox’s Breaking In and ABC’s The Goldbergs, is 41 today.

Lindy Booth, who is 38 today, currently stars on TNT’s The Librarians and previously was a regular on Relic HunterBethany Joy Lenz, best known as Haley Scott on One Tree Hill, is celebrating her 36th today.  Jesse Plemons, who is 29 today, was an Emmy nominee for season 2 of Fargo and was a regular on Friday Night Lights.    Shawn Roberts, who turns 33, is something of a specialist in zombie films, having been in two of George Romero’s Living Dead films and three of the Resident Evil movies.

Marvin Gaye (1939-1984), the “Prince of Motown,” began as a session musician at Motown, working with Smokey Robinson and others, while trying to find his voice as a solo artist.  Starting in 1962, he had a string of R&B hits, with the most successful including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You),” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and “Let’s Get It On.”  Tragically, Gaye was shot to death by his father, one day before his 45th birthday.  Leon Russell (1942-2016) was a genre-crossing singer-songwriter who worked in blues, country, folk, and rock at different times.  His “A Song For You” has been reportedly recorded over 200 times.

Baseball Hall of Famer Luke Appling (1907-1991), known as “Old Aches and Pains,” spent over 20 years (minus World War 2 service) with the Chicago White Sox, most of that time as their starting shortstop, making 7 All-Star teams.  Don Sutton, who turns 72, spent most of his long career with the L.A. Dodgers, ended up with 324 pitching wins, and also made the Hall of Fame.  Jack Brabham (1926-2014) was a three time world champion of Formula One auto racing and also an influential race car designer; he became the only driver to win the Formula One title in a car of his own construction in 1966.  Hungarian football Ferenc Puskás (1927-2006) was one of the sport’s all-time greats.  He was the biggest star of a Hungarian side known as the “Magical Magyars,” who lost only one international match from 1950-56; unfortunately for them, it was the 1954 World Cup final against West Germany.

Émile Zola (1840-1902) was a French novelist and journalist.  He was known for his novels such as Thérèse Raquin and Germinal, and also for his famous open letter J’accuse, protesting the imprisonment of French army Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been falsely accused of espionage.  Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) is best remembered for his original fairy tales such as “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Little Mermaid,” and others.

Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003) began his long film and television career in 1935 and worked until the late nineties; his most famous roles were on television, as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies and the title character on Barnaby Jones.  TV viewers who recognize Ebsen would likely also remember Jack Webb (1920-1982), the creator and star of the Dragnet radio and television franchise, and also the co-creator of series such as Adam-12 and Emergency!  Serge Gainsbourg (1928-1991) was a man of many talents—a singer, songwriter, composer, pianist, actor, screenwriter and director.  He was married to previous headliner Jane Birkin; actress Charlotte Gainsbourg is their daughter.  Richard Portman (1934-2017) was a sound engineer and an eleven-time nominee for the Oscar for Best Sound, winning for The Deer Hunter.

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.

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Posted on April 2, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Readers may be able to guess that Emmylou Harris is a favorite of mine. It’s been that way ever since I picked up a copy of Roses in the Snow at my local Best Buy (I think). Since, as I said, one song is not sufficient to fully represent her, here’s a little bonus, from a different stage of her career:

    Alec Guinness had a remarkable career and did some great work. He will always be George Smiley for me, first and foremost, but some of his Ealing films are also amazing.

    When they made the moderately watchable, at best, Beverly Hillbillies feature in the early 1990s, they brought Buddy Ebsen back for a cameo—as Barnaby Jones!

    Jack Webb’s various series were a part of my childhood, especially Adam-12—I don’t remember exactly how, but somehow I always ended up watching it on Wednesday nights.

    Like

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